The use of the word ‘observer’

The United Nations News agency IRIN ran a story today about the ongoing Hamas vs. Jordan issue. The thing that bugged me about the article was its choice of headline: Observers skeptical about Hamas plot in kingdom. The reason I’m peeved about this is not my subjective take on the issue but the fact that the writer/editor of this article chose the word "observers" for the headline when the article only quotes members of the Muslim brotherhood.

My humble experience as a journalist/writer taught me that "observer" is a label used for renowned writers, academics and scholars — pundits. I do not really buy the labeling of members of an opposition group as "observers." Another thing worth highlighting is the article’s quote from IAF member Zaki Abu Rsheid saying:

Neither I, nor anybody else in the kingdom, believe the government’s story that Hamas planned attacks against targets in the kingdom, despite a televised confession by two men arrested in connection with the case, said Abu Rsheid.

Dear Mr. Abu Rsheid, please do not speak for all Jordanians … or at least do not speak for me. Okay, enough about Hamas for now. I hope I don’t have to discuss this topic again, as whenever I do the discussions on this blog get heated, bordering at times on the offensive. If you choose to leave a comment on this very subjective blog, please keep it civil. Thank you.

5 Comments

  1. Hamzeh N. May 16, 2006 at 6:57 pm

    Hi Natasha, maybe they were also referring to the 90% who answered the poll on Al Jazeera’s web site. Of course, they can’t quote those people on anything but their answer to the poll.
    Even though I think anyone has the right to be called an observer if they actually observe things, I think I agree with you that it’s kind of bad that they didn’t find anyone else but the IAF members to talk to, and that they had to refer to an Al Jazeera poll, and I usually hate Al Jazeera polls.
    So what can we do? These people do observe, so they do deserve the right to be called observers, but does that mean they represent all observers? Of course not, so then should that story headline have said something like “some observers”? I think that would have been better, but then again it seems that news sources prefer to actually not use the word “some” most of the times, I don’t know if they do it because they want to add more value to the headline, or because they assume that the word “some” is implied.

    Reply
  2. Khalaf May 16, 2006 at 11:19 pm

    Natasha: The level of professionalism becomes clear when you know that the name of the individual in question is Zaki Bani Rsheid and not Abu Rsheid.
    Maybe the UN should stay out of journalism.

    Reply
  3. Jad madi May 17, 2006 at 12:15 am

    Natasha,
    Politics is dirty but fortunately this shows us with whom we are dealing. we are dealing with people giving us the image that they never looked where people from and never care about nationalities and religion is the only key and now they’re talking about native Jordanian and Palestinians anyway it’s the time to strike back! 3alihoooooooooom
    Khalaf,
    Allah la ye-wa6-rezlak, he’s bani not abu indeed but that doesn’t reflect his education level unless you have something else to elaborate with.

    Reply
  4. Khalaf May 17, 2006 at 12:40 am

    Jad: Huh? What did I say about education? I don’t get it. I was referring to the professionalism of the journalist. I’m sorry that was not clear.

    Reply
  5. Me May 17, 2006 at 10:43 pm

    Natasha: you object to their writer’s misuse of the word ‘observer’ and you say you have sufficient journalistic experience to judge them. But from my reading of this post and the previous one on the topic (the ‘so far’ one), I dont see you as a very objective person on this issue – you automatically lose the right to decide who is objective and who is not in their coverage of the Hamas episode (should really be called the Mokhabarat-Hamas episode).
    I am not to judge anyone either, but I realized you are not at all objective on this topic, so you are being extra sensitive (of course in the direction of your biases).

    Reply

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